Saturday, March 24, 2012

How many !!! are enough?

I just remembered that I have a blog due! Tough to write a blog when I haven’t really been doing any writing! I’m still researching for a project and research basically means reading, and this was a book on poltergeists!
And in my reading I’ve discovered I really hate exclamation points!
I’m not kidding!
The poltergeist book writer includes so many !!! that it’s distracting. The subject matter itself is enough to make the stories dramatic. He does not need exclamation points!
Kinda makes me wonder how I’ve used them in my blogs. I’ve always felt that if you can’t get the emphasis across without !!!, then maybe you need to rework your sentence. If that doesn’t work, then maybe there’s a bigger problem, so look at your scene. What’s supposed to be causing tension? Use that to make your point not an exclamation point.
There are of course exceptions, and even though I made “exception” plural, I can really think of only one—they’re okay to use in dialogue. Sometimes. For instance, maybe there is more than one way a character’s statement can be taken.
Let’s say you’re having a party. And your buddy brings over that strange girlfriend who drama queens everything. The easy-going, well tanned body builder says. “Dude! Your dog pooped on the floor!” Granted, it’s a big dog, so it’s a pretty big pile of poo. But it’s not big deal. You head for the kitchen for carpet cleaner and a roll of paper towels. That’s when the drama queen pipes up. “He pooped on the carpet? Oh no! How will you ever get it out? That stuff won’t work, you’ll need to steam clean it! Nathan tell him! He’ll have to have it steam cleaned!” Of course you can see the whites all the way around her irises and her earnest expression makes you roll your eyes and chew your lip as you spritz.
So basically, if your character is a drama queen you want to have to have overreacting to something fairly tame, then throw in an exclamation point. But use them sparingly, like hot pepper flakes on pizza. Easy to overdo. I overdid it in my example because I love hot pepper flakes. Clears the sinuses, especially in the spring when I’ve been working in the yard.
Dang it. That reminds me, I have yard work to do. You know what that means? Pizza for supper!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monkey Wrenches and Stirred Pots

“Our story is boring.” Larry has said this to me a couple of times recently. Thing is, I totally agree. Our second book is starting out to the tune of a big snore.
Since we’re writing as Pantsters, there isn’t anything guiding us. I think the reason we did so well with the first one is because it started with action and it didn’t let up. We had something guiding us—questions. Who is trying to kill Casey? Why did they want him dead? These questions presented themselves early and often and led to all kinds of amusing and occasionally gruesome situations.
But this story? The only question I’m asking is, “Where is this going?”
Part of the reason we don’t know is that we agreed we wouldn’t pigeon hole it into a genre. We’d just let it flow and see where it went. Well, now both of us agree it’s not going anywhere. You can’t string together a bunch of amusing anecdotes and call it a book—at least not a good book.
So I stirred the pot and took the story in an unexpected direction. Can’t tell you what it is now, because I haven’t heard back from Larry. Which means 1) he really, REALLY hates it, or 2) he’s just been busy. And if he really, REALLY hates it, then we have to talk. We both have to like what’s happening, because if we don’t, our mood will reflect into the tone of our scenes and ultimately, the whole story.
That’s what happens when you have a partner. If it were only me, I’d have thrown in something bloody and gruesome early on. If it was Larry, he’d have thrown in a hard-bodied woman wearing a short dress and a potential love interest. I’m drama and gore and he’s romantic comedy. That’s just the way we roll.
Interestingly enough, that’s what made our last book so good. He tempered my characters’ enthusiastic bloodlust and I tempered his characters’ innate need for romance into a romantic-thriller-comedy-drama-esque story, although it’s true genre is mystery.
Now into the second book, you’d think that we’d have learned what works and start this one out with a bang. Apparently not. And although I don’t think that necessarily makes us slow learners, it makes us Pantsters. Pantsters rarely know where they’re going. It’s the nature of the beast.
It’s also the nature of discovery-—of uncovering something fun and vital that has a life of its own and drags the writer along for the ride.
So far, this one doesn’t, but hopefully with the twist I’ve thrown in, it will give us questions to answer that will get us through the rest of the book.
That is if Larry doesn’t really, REALLY hate it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

IPT Wedgie

Our blogs keep getting further and further (farther and farther?) apart. Spring has sort-of arrived in the Midwest, so I’ve been outside moving decorative rock, preparing flower beds, and picking up tree debris in preparation for mowing. Last week I plopped down in my lawn chair and said to the squirrels, “I don’t care if I ever go back to work!”
Today the phone rings and I have an interview for a full-time, permanent position.
Morning is my writing/research time. Snapshot: I get out of bed, clean the litter box [wash hands] eat breakfast, and settle in front of my SAD light and go to it for a couple hours. And I occasionally revisit it an hour or two before supper time.
This morning I had an idea present itself from a dream. I’ve been working on a project independent from Larry, and I’ve decided to plot this one out before I begin writing. You know, just for grins to see how it goes. (It’s my “busy” work while I’m waiting for an installment on our joint effort from Larry!)
But a job…it’s going to eat into my Intellectual Pursuit Time! Just like Larry’s eats into his.
I’ve worked full time before and written novels. It’s definitely slower going, but it gets done. I’ll just have to rework my schedule. As many writers will tell you, it’s all about priorities. And scheduling.  

And priorities. 

So when I go to work, I’ll be exultant, because even though we’re not destitute, a bit of extra cash wouldn’t break my heart.
I’ll will, however, be sorely disappointed giving up my current Intellectual Pursuit Time.  It’ll still be here somewhere in my day, I’ll just have to wedge it into the schedule.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shaken, not stirred

Getting attached is bad—bad, Bad, BAD.
At least it is when you have a pantsing partner who lives to shake things up. Things that maybe you thought should only have been stirred.
“Pantsing” always makes me think of a basketball court and a skinny kid with his shorts around his ankles. That’s neither here nor there, but now I have a (not-so) lovely mental image that I’m stuck with for a while.
          Or maybe that’s how I felt and it IS actually here and there. Maybe I’d felt exposed for the incompetent pantster I truly am. A pantster can’t plan and I’m a planner.
          So here’s what happened: I’d introduced a character and had a vision of him being a certain way. Larry on the other hand, had a RADICALLY different idea, which left me miffed. How DARE he mess with my vision! (mutter mutter mumble) The NERVE.
          Oh, wait. I forgot. Pantsing precludes planning. (Say that three times fast.) No plotting ahead and trying to guide the partner, and no creating the characters, because with pantsing they create themselves.
          So now I have to re-envision the character as being what he has become, not what I thought he should or would be.
          What goes around comes around—in the last book Larry’d written a character that I had changed fairly dramatically by the end of the story. So now it’s my turn. I suppose I had it coming.
          But the lesson here is far less Karma-ish than I’m making it out to be. It’s about me and my control freakiness and my need to over-think everything.
          “Just have fun with it,” Larry says. Well, for me fun is being freaky, in only the most controlling and writerly of ways, of course.
          Today it’s my turn to write a scene. I will be obliged to include this character and his less than charming ways, unless I do something dreadful and dastardly. Like give him a split personality.
          So for today, this is Freaky Control Freak, signing off.